Sunday, October 19, 2008

5 will get you 1, maybe

After all of the fantastic (and fantastically expensive) boats we saw last weekend it was a real pleasure to get back to our modest little Nomad once again. She isn't very new, very big or very fancy, but she is the perfect boat for learning while sailing on our landlocked lake. One thing we discovered this weekend, when the winds are light, you really can't get there from here.

We went out with a friend again on a Friday night sail. The wind was brisk enough to put some heel on the boat and some chill in the air.

Saturday Deb and I pushed off in Nomad around 9:30 to find some light wind blowing straight out of the North. We wanted to head down to the dam (just about due South from the marina) but Nomad doesn't like the wind directly behind her. She actually goes a little better with the wind off one shoulder first then the other (as you are standing at the wheel). Sailors call this being on a "broad reach" and when you turn side to side with your butt to the wind like that, they call it "jibing." We jibed our way down the lake, back and forth from east shore to west, about 10 times. Each tack gaining just a little bit down wind, 5 miles sailed to get maybe 1 in the direction we wanted to go.

Turning for home we were now sailing as close to directly into the wind as we could, something sailors call "close hauled." One would think that we would slowly gain on the marina but it turns out there is a catch. Sailboats always slip a little sideways because of the pressure of the wind on the side of the boat, something they call "leeway." When the winds are light and the boat is going slow, the keel doesn't get much of a bite in the water and the leeway eats up any progress one might otherwise make toward the goal. In other words, no matter how hard we tried there was no heading we could hold that would get us any closer to home port. Without the engine we actually couldn't get from here to there. So we motored back to the dock and tied up just after the sun set in a spectacular display.

This morning the wind was rattling the trees. Just as we were getting ready to cast off a friend who sails Gale Force called in. He had spent the night on the hook because his engine had overheated while he was trying to motor home the night before (sound familiar?). Now he was looking for a tow to get him into the dock. Deb and I volunteered to go get him but as we were clearing the inlet our overheat alarm went off as well! A third friend headed out in Magic Dragon to gather up Gale Force. Since the wind was blowing Deb and I put up sails and went out to play in spite of our ailing motor. Nomad is a sailboat after all. To get in we used the same trick we have before, sailing deep into the inlet and starting the engine at the last possible minute to gain the slip.

Our engine turned out to be an easy fix. In addition to Nomad and Gale Force, we saw Sailing Fox going by under tow (her outboard had died) and we heard that Blue Moon got stranded with dead batteries. There was a bunch of mechanicing going on this afternoon in Boulder!

All things considered it was a pretty cool weekend. The weather was autumn perfection, this morning's sail was fast and fun, we handled a problem with little fuss, and we even got a little work done on the boat. All weekend the normally pea-soup-looking lake water actually reflected the deep blue of the skies and sparkled in the sun. In fact I ended up with a pretty good sunburn on my face from the reflections! I was thinking on the way home that I am one of the luckiest people on the planet. But luck has a habit of setting its own schedule. Deb and I have seen our share of struggles in the past 30 odd years and there are sure to be more to come. At the moment though, the winds are fair and the weather kind. The only thing to do is to accept the gift as it comes and sail on.


Steve said...

There's a saying: "if you're lucky enough to live on the water, you're lucky enough".

T gramps said...

I like that and we get pretty lucky most weekends!